I first watched Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, in 2013 while I was a junior in college at Kent State. I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s one of my favorite movies, because it’s extremely dark. But I think I like the movie and repeatedly come back to it from time to time, because it represents redemption in the soul of man, given by the saving grace of Jesus.
In the movie, Dante Alighieri is reimagined as a Crusader who has to rescue his fiancée Beatrice from the Devil. But in order to do so, he has to traverse the nine circles of Hell (Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery) to save her.
But as he journeys through the nine circles, he becomes more and more aware of the atrocities he’s committed in his life, such as having an affair with a woman while he’s away from Beatrice on his tour of duty, slaughtering innocent people who aren’t Christians because he believes they aren’t worthy of Heaven, and framing Beatrice’s brother Francesco for the murders he’s committed.
Dante is a unique character in the movie. He has so many different facets to who he is: The soldier who believes he is doing his “Christian” duty by fighting to reclaim the Holy Land. The extremely flawed sinner who gradually comes to terms with all of the evil and harm he’s done to others. And the man who still genuinely believes in God when he is at his absolute lowest after recognizing how doomed he is. The first time I watched this movie, I was rooting for Dante to rescue Beatrice. But along the way, as his sins and their magnitude are gradually revealed, I’m also like, “Damn, dude. You REALLY screwed up!”
But as I have watched the movie several more times, as well as play the PS3 game it is based on, I have come to see this version of Dante’s Inferno in a deeper, much more profound way. And it really hits me personally too.
The story of Dante’s Inferno in the movie, to me, represents us all coming to terms with our sins if we truly look inside ourselves. We see the ugliness. We recognize how doomed we are. And if we are truly sorry, we cry out to Jesus to save us. The final battle of the movie always gives me goosebumps. Dante, exhausted from his journey, realizes he deserves to be in Hell for all the evil he has done. But God hears him…
That part of the movie is the most powerful to me because it shows me what I should do if I am truly a Christian and follower of Jesus. Dante basically says and does what we should all do, which is admit our sins with a truly repentant heart, ask God for His forgiveness in our worst moments, and work to be better with His help. No disrespect to Islam, Judaism or any of the other faiths. But Christianity is unique and more beautiful to me, in that it teaches us to fully rely on Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
Sure, we should all try to live a virtuous and good life by doing the right thing. It is one of the things that pleases God. But Christianity is the only faith in history that shows us that we cannot ever hope to earn Heaven on our own virtue or merit. And it is arrogant to assume that we can. We are woefully short by God’s standards of justice and goodness. When we realize how screwed up we are, we become like Peter, scared of drowning on the water until Jesus rescues him and says “Oh, ye of little faith.” That’s where the Lord’s death comes in. I still struggle to wrap my head around it. And probably will until my dying day. But at least I know I cannot rely on my own strength and any goodness I might have to get me to Paradise.
I also see Dante in myself. Sure, I may not have committed the heinous atrocities he did in the movie. But here’s the thing: I recognize that I have plenty of my own sins that could doom me. And that all sin is ugly and unacceptable in God’s eyes. But I also recognize that I have a Redeemer who has taken my place and bore my sins upon His shoulders while hanging on the Cross. I just feel awfully unworthy.
Similarly, Dante felt unworthy of God’s forgiveness at the end of the movie. Sorrow and remorse overwhelmed his heart. But eventually thanks to God’s mercy, Dante was able to defeat the Devil, climb out of Hell and into Purgatory, where he can continue his journey to one day join Beatrice in Heaven.
Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic is an extremely dark cartoon movie geared toward adults. It’s graphic and violent. But I recommend it to anyone who often struggles with their faith, or who does soul-searching frequently. The movie may be dark, but eventually the darkness gives way to light and a powerful message. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, is a story of one man’s exhausting struggle to face down his sins. But it is also a redemptive story, and a reminder of what God’s love and mercy can do for you, me, and all of humanity!